Judas Maccabaeus (Handel)

Judas Maccabaeus (HWV 63) is an oratorio in three acts composed in 1746 by George Frideric Handel based on a libretto written by Thomas Morell. The oratorio was devised as a compliment to the victorious Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland upon his return from the Battle of Culloden (16 April 1746). Other catalogues of Handel's music have referred to the work as HG xxii; and HHA 1/24.

Contents

Synopsis

Morell's libretto is based on the deuterocanonical (or apocryphal) book 1 Maccabees (2–8), with motives added from the Antiquitates Judaicae by Flavius Josephus.

The events depicted in the oratorio are from the period 170–160 BC when Judea was ruled by the Seleucid Empire which undertook to destroy the Jewish religion. Being ordered to worship Zeus, many Jews obeyed under the threat of persecution; however, some did not. One who defied was the elderly priest Mattathias who killed a fellow Jew who was about to offer a pagan sacrifice. After tearing down a pagan altar, Mattathias retreated to the hills and gathered others who were willing to fight for their faith.

Handel's music depicts the changing moods of the Jewish people as their fortunes vary from dejection to jubilation.

Part 1

The people mourn the death of their leader Mattathias, but his son Simon tries to restore their faith and calls them to arms (Arm, arm, ye brave). Simon's brother, Judas Maccabaeus, assumes the role of leader and inspires the people with thoughts of liberty and victory through the power of Jehovah.

Part 2

The people have been victorious, but Judas is concerned th... ...read more

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